the redacted part was an opinion related directly to the complainant, hence her
personal data, and should have been disclosed to the complainant. Since the general
statements in category (iii) had broad general application and did not directly or
indirectly relate to the complainant, the Court concluded that they were not her
Indeed, even for data that relates directly to an individual, questions may arise as to
whether the relationship is so trivial that it would appear absurd for the data to give rise
to obligations or liability under the Ordinance. Take the example of a simple note
informing a colleague that, in his absence, a friend has called and asked him to return
the call. Such a note would apparently satisfy the condition under paragraph (a) (and
those under paragraphs (b) and (c)) of the definition of personal data, thus constituting
the personal data of the colleague concerned. The same may be said, for example,
about a seating plan for students in a classroom.
In AAB No. 49/2001, a sentence contained in the minutes of a meeting stating that “. . .
as Mr. X did not have the contact telephone number of Mr. Y . . .” was ruled not to be
personal data collected about Mr. Y but merely recording the reason why Mr. Y could
not be reached for an appraisal interview and thus it was proper to have edited out the
sentence when complying with the data access request made by Mr. Y.
The question as to whether the views and opinions expressed by an owner in an Owners’
Committee meeting were his personal data was examined in AAB No. 28/2010. The AAB
held that the views and opinions expressed by the owner on how the Owners’
Committee should be conducted and how the observer should behave during the
meetings did not amount to personal data of the owner as these views and opinions
were not related directly or indirectly to the owner. It can therefore be seen that while
the definition of data includes the expression of opinion under the Ordinance, such
opinions must relate directly or indirectly to a living individual for it to form an essential
ingredient of personal data protected under the Ordinance.
From a plain reading of the section, it is perhaps difficult to infer a strict requirement in
paragraph (a) that the relationship in question must be important and not trivial.
However, when dealing with a complaint, the Commissioner may be inclined to avoid
an absurd result if the data in the complaint that relates to a complainant is none but
trivial, and may exercise his discretion to refuse to investigate such a complaint on the
grounds of triviality provided under section 39(2)(b) of the Ordinance.
In AAB No. 14/2007, the AAB considered that an invoice, which was a document
relevant to legal proceedings to which the concerned individual was a party, was not
personal data of the individual. According to the AAB, the invoice, though addressed to
a named individual, related to the trading price in a business transaction rather than to
the individual personally.
The Ordinance protects the personal data of a living individual and does not extend to
that of a deceased person. This is illustrated in the decision of AAB No. 27/2005 where a
complainant, who was the son-in-law and lawful guardian of an elderly woman,
complained about a social worker because she had disclosed to the coroner the fact
that the elderly woman had died. The AAB held that for the Ordinance to apply, the
personal data must relate to a living individual and did not include that of a deceased